U.N. agency that helps Palestinians says it has closed its headquarters in East Jerusalem after attacks and fire.

The main United Nations agency that aids Palestinians, known as UNRWA, said on Thursday that it would temporarily close its headquarters in East Jerusalem for the safety of its staff after parts of the compound were set on fire following weeks of attacks.

“This evening, Israeli residents set fire twice to the perimeter of the UNRWA Headquarters in occupied East Jerusalem,” said the leader of the agency, Philippe Lazzarini, on social media. The fire caused extensive damage to the outdoor areas of the compound, Mr. Lazzarini said, but that no workers from UNRWA or other U.N. agencies suffered injuries. He added that some of the workers “had to put out the fire themselves as it took the Israeli fire extinguishers and police a while before they turned up.”

The attack put the lives of U.N. staff at “serious risk” and came two days after protesters threw stones at staff members at the compound, Mr. Lazzarini said.

Protests by Israeli settlers calling for UNRWA’s closure have been continuing for months. “On several occasions, Israeli extremists threatened our staff with guns,” Mr. Lazzarini said in Thursday’s social media post. He added that under international law, it is Israel’s responsibility “as an occupying power to ensure that United Nations personnel and facilities are protected at all times.”

Many Israeli officials have called for years for UNRWA to be dismantled, and the agency lost funding from some donor countries earlier this year after Israel accused a dozen of its employees of being involved in the Hamas-led attack on Israel on Oct. 7. An independent review commissioned by the U.N. and released in April found that Israel had not provided any evidence to support its further accusations that many UNRWA staff members were members of terrorist organizations.


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